San Diego City Beat
August 8, 2005
Another classic from ‘Sordid Tales’
“Dearest Decker: In your article “Thou shalt not kill,” you said it was impossible to know what were the intentions of the Founding Fathers regarding separation of church and state. That is wrong. Their intentions were obvious…. They intended to keep God in the mix. They mention and praise him in almost all of their documents, including the Declaration of Independence….”
J.B.L. is correct. The Founding Fathers did mention God in the Declaration of Independence, and their intention was to keep him in the mix. But get this: It doesn’t matter what the Founding Fathers intended. They were so awash in the hypocrisies and ironies of their humanness, they can hardly be considered as the last word on anything.
Consider Thomas Jefferson, the man who scribed the Declaration of Independence. Jefferson was covetous and cruel. He was a spoiled aristocrat who whipped and tortured and sold his 200-plus slaves to satisfy his thirst for imported luxuries. Jefferson was a hypocrite. Jefferson was a blatant racist. He opposed emancipation at every turn, not only because he needed slaves to maintain a privileged quality of life, but also because he thought—as he wrote in his Notes on the State of Virginia—that blacks were inferior to whites. Jefferson was a devout Christian. Jefferson was also a pedophile, since his scandalous affair with slave Sally Hemings began when she was only 14 years old.
In summary, Thomas Jefferson was a douchebag.
He was not alone. The flaws and fouls of the Floundering Fathers abound. Most were adulterers. Many were misogynists. Many were freemasons. A few were bad spellers. Some were smugglers. All were scandalous. One was a bore. All were treasonous (against the crown). Many were drunkards. A few had pimply bottoms. Most were terrorists. Some were inept. Many held slaves.
Oh, the glaring hypocrisies of the Founding Fathers. They demanded separation of church and state (except their church, naturally). They demanded equality for all (except women, silly). They wanted government of, by and for the people (as long as you don’t count blacks as actual people—what, are you on crack or something?).
So who cares what their intentions were? Do you believe everything the Founding Fathers tell you? Who died and left the Founding Fathers boss? If the Founding Fathers jumped off a bridge, would you follow? How many Founding Fathers does it take to screw in a light bulb? (None! They made their slaves do it.) The Founding Fathers were so wrong about so many things it really shouldn’t factor, frankly, what the Founding Fathers fomented when they founded the fatherland more than 200 years ago.
All that matters is what is right and what is good for right now.
Abraham Lincoln understood this. He certainly understood that Jefferson was a douchebag on the issue of slavery. Abraham Lincoln refuted Jefferson’s position—that blacks should not receive the liberties bestowed by the creator—and labored for their emancipation. Because Abraham Lincoln didn’t give a floating eagle fart about Jefferson’s intent 50 freaking years earlier. All he cared about was what was right and what was good for right then.
Speaking of douching.
For some reason, people become enraged when you compare a Founding Father to a feminine hygiene product. People would rather believe the Founding Fathers were perfect beings. This country was built around their beautiful prose, and to admit they are flawed is to admit America is flawed. Therefore any criticism of the Founding Fathers is immediately quashed. As the centuries pass, all their human inadequacies will be erased or forgotten and all that will remain is the legend. Sound familiar? Eventually a cult forms. Finally, the cult becomes a religion—to be blindly worshipped and zealously defended.
Just as any attempt to portray Jesus Christ as a flawed human is met with ferocious opposition, so does mainstream history continue to paint the Floundering Fathers as irreproachable authorities on the subject of liberty and government.
But they weren’t all that. They did not foresee the inherent tyranny of power—it was hindsight. They didn’t invent democracy—they emulated it. They didn’t compose the Declaration of Independence—they borrowed it,took it directly from the 1690 writings of John Locke, who maintained that the purpose of government was to protect every man’s inherent right to “property, life and liberty.” Locke didn’t philosophize in a vacuum, either. He probably learnt a thing or two from Pierre Bayle (1674-1706) and the then blossoming European Age of Enlightenment, which really began with the 13th-century writings of Thomas Aquinas, who borrowed from the ancient Greeks, who coined the word “democracy.” The word is derived from the Greek “demos,” which means people and “crate,” which means “power.”
Hell yeah! Even as far back as 300 or so B.C., Plato and Aristotle were sitting in their little hippie circles, wearing tunics, strumming lyres and singing, “Pow-wer to the pee-pul. Power to the people, right on!”
In summary: Each new libercracy builds on the one before. The new philosophy retains the ideas that are right and good and discards that which isn’t. Democracy is a smelting pot we keep stirring and culling, and it is my opinion, J.B.L., that religion is the slag that needs to be skimmed off our current government—and I don’t give a good goddamn what the Foundering Fathers had to say about it more than 200 years ago.
Ed promises to start writing new columns again real soon, but we’re becoming real skeptical.
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